10 Injury Treatment Priorities at the Emergency Room

Life-threatening Injuries

Although life-threatening injuries aren't the No. 1 reason patients find themselves in the emergency room, or even in the top 10, these are the patients who will receive first priority by the emergency staff.

"The obvious first-priority patients are those with multiple trauma, gunshot or stab wounds, those who've been in motor vehicle accidents, those with obvious stroke or who are having a heart attack with a specific pattern on EKG," explains Dr. Rathlev. Patients in shock or who have unstable vital signs -- extremely low blood pressure, extremely high pulse -- or who have a change in their mental status or have sudden confusion are also given first priority.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "Emergency Severity Index, Version 4." (July 1, 2011) http://www.ahrq.gov/research/esi/esi1.htm#Contents
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. "Cough." 1996. (July 1, 2011) http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/516.html
  • American College of Emergency Physicians. "A Typical Shift for an Emergency Physician." 2011. (July 1, 2011) http://www.acep.org/Content.aspx?id=75947
  • American College of Emergency Physicians. "CDC: Two-Thirds of Emergency Visits Occur During Non-Business Hours; Percentage of non-urgent Emergency Patients Drops To Less than 8 Percent." 2010. (July 1, 2011) http://www.acep.org/Content.aspx?id=49128
  • American College of Emergency Physicians. "One in Five People in the U.S. Visited the Emergency Department in 2007, New Report Finds." 2010. (July 1, 2011) http://www.acep.org/Content.aspx?id=48554
  • American College of Emergency Physicians. "Statistics and Data." (July 1, 2011) http://www.acep.org/Content.aspx?id=25214
  • Bhuiya, Farida A.; Pitts, Stephen R.; and Linda F. McCaig. "Emergency Department Visits for Chest Pain and Abdominal Pain: United States, 1999-2008." National Center for Health Statistics. NCHS Data Brief No. 42. 2010. (July 1, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db43.htm
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Fever." (July 1, 2011) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/symptoms/fever/hic_fever.aspx
  • Cox, Lauren. "Computers Can Send You to the ER, Study Shows." ABC News. 2009. (July 1, 2011) http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainNews/story?id=7788538&page=1
  • Cutrer, F. Michael. "Evaluation of the adult with headache in the emergency department." 2011. (July 1, 2011) http://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-the-adult-with-headache-in-the-emergency-department
  • Gorfine, Lawrence; Douglas MacLear. "Eliminating the Emergency Room Wait – Effective Out of Hospital Treatment for Pain." Palm Beach Spine Pain Institute. (July 1, 2011) http://www.helpain.com/pdf/Eliminating%20the%20Emergency%20Room%20Wait.pdf
  • Hedayati, Tarlan. Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine. John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County and Rush University Medical Center. Personal Interview. June 29, 2011. (July 1, 2011)
  • MayoClinic. "Chest pain - Causes." 2011. (July 1, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chest-pain/DS00016/DSECTION=causes
  • McCaig, Linda F.; and Catharine Burt. "National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2002 Emergency Department Summary." Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 2004. (July 1, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad340.pdf
  • MedlinePlus. "Breathing difficulty." 2009. (July 1, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003075.htm
  • MedlinePlus. "Fever." 2010. (July 1, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003090.htm
  • MedlinePlus. "Nausea and vomiting." 2009. (July 1, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003117.htm
  • Meisel, Zachary F. "Why Belly Pain Is Such a Headache for ER Doctors." TIME. 2011. (July 1, 2011) http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2045685,00.html
  • Merrill, Chaya T.; Owens, Pamela L.; Carol Stocks. "Pediatric Emergency Department Visits in Community Hospitals from Selected States, 2005." Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. 2008. (July 1, 2011) http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb52.jsp
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Subarachnoid hemorrhage." 2011. (July 1, 2011) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001720/
  • Neale, Todd. "CT Helps Emergency Docs Treat Abdominal Pain." Medpage Today. 2011. (July 1, 2011) http://www.medpagetoday.com/Radiology/DiagnosticRadiology/24480
  • Niska, Richard; Bhuiya, Farida; Jianmin Xu. "National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2007 Emergency Department Summary." National Health Statistics Reports. No. 26. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2010. (July 1, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr026.pdf
  • Rathlev, Niels. Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine. Baystate Medical Practices and Professor of Emergency Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Personal Interview. June 29, 2011. (July 1, 2011)


Despite Common Myth, Ambulance Companies Can't Avoid Certain Neighborhoods

Despite Common Myth, Ambulance Companies Can't Avoid Certain Neighborhoods

HowStuffWorks looks at the evolution of ambulance services and why the idea that they don't pick up people in some neighborhoods is incorrect.

More to Explore